As the city's U.S. Attorney tries to get a purveyor of porn films prosecuted, she may be striking out against an obscenity target once thought out of bounds: the written word.
The Pittsburgh-area home of the owner of an erotic tales Web site, Red Rose Stories (www.red-rose-stories.com), was raided in early October by the Pittsburgh office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of an obscenity law investigation. Larry Walters, the site owner's Orlando-based attorney, would identify his female client only as Rose, but confirmed her residence near but outside the city.
Red Rose Stories contained no photos or videos, just text, according to Walters. Although the stories are no longer available on the former pay site, porn-industry news site xbiz.com says Red Rose's stories allegedly covered "bestiality, water sports, scat, bondage and domination, S&M, slavery, threesomes, orgies and sex with children."
The raid of Red Rose came shortly before U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan argued before the federal appellate court here that California-based Extreme Associates should not be allowed to continue selling pornographic videos and DVDs by mail, some of which depict rape and murder of women. The original indictment of Extreme was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster in January, prompting the appeal.
After the raid of Red Rose, in which several computers and documents, including tax returns, were seized, according to both Rose's post on the site and her attorney, the story portion of the site was closed by the owner.
Special Agent William J. Crowley, spokesman for the FBI's local office, refused to confirm or deny that any arrests in the Red Rose investigation were imminent, or even that an investigation into the Web site was ongoing. He referred requests for information to the U.S. Attorney's office. Calls seeking comment from Buchanan were not returned by press time.
Walters says an investigation into the company began when a separate investigation into child pornography turned up stories from the Red Rose site on a child-porn suspect's computer. And, according to "Tweedle," a poster in the Red Rose site's forum (still in operation), the site did have a large number of pedophilia-related pieces.
"One of the reasons for the attack on Red-Rose-Stories.com was the large proportion of pedo stories on the site," Tweedle speculates. "I trust it has been noted that at one time the pedo content was diluted by many hundreds of non-pedo tales."
But Walters says there's no way to know what part of the content triggered the FBI raid, "because there haven't been any charges filed at this point. But the oddity of this case is that, widely assumed among First Amendment scholars, text materials are not open for obscenity prosecutions." There's no way that the federal child pornography law can apply to fantasy stories, he adds: Child pornography is a legal term that includes only visual depictions of sex acts involving a child, or such depictions of a child's genitals even without sexual involvement.
With the charges against Extreme Associates still legally up in the air, Walters says he can't believe the government is continuing to pursue other obscenity investigations.
"If I were operating the Department of Justice obscenity unit, I would wait and see the result of the appeal before beginning new cases," Walter says. "The timing of this case, especially going after a site that deals only in fantasy text, is peculiar to say the least."